Over 140 arrests in Brussels and 60 in Antwerp amid New Year's Eve incidents
More than 140 people were arrested on New Year's Eve in Brussels and around 60 in Antwerp, according to the cities' local police forces. A ban on fireworks was in force, but was largely ignored.
By 1.00, Brussels police had arrested 142 people, a sharp increase from last year's figure of 74 arrests by the same time. "In general, the prime minister's decision on the possession and use of fireworks was not respected," police said on Monday morning.
The Brussels fire brigae made 663 interventions. "That is almost twice as many as on a normal watch," said spokesperson Walter Derieuw. Three firefighters suffered tinnitus from the explosion of fireworks, while three civilians were injured by fireworks, including a city guard, a teenager and a seven-year-old.
Water cannon deployed
Meanwhile, police in Antwerp made nearly 60 arrests during New Year's Eve celebrations. Most were rioters who lit and threw fireworks or caused damage.
In the run-up to midnight, tensions rose in some neighbourhoods and the police had to be deployed en masse. Young people lit fireworks and threw them at passing vehicles, particularly in the vicinity of Sint-Bernardsesteenweg on the Kiel, Veldstraat in Antwerp-North, Statiestraat in Berchem and Lakborslei and Bisthovenplein in Deurne. "On the Kiel, the police had to disperse the crowd. The water cannon was used there," a police spokesperson said.
A police vehicle was also badly damaged in the same area. In several places in the city, people set up improvised blockades, including with scooters and bicycles, to obstruct the police. The police used an armoured vehicle to remove these blockades.
In Ghent, too, the ban on fireworks was ignored, with fireworks set off en masse across the city. The police also recorded several minor incidents. The Van Beverenplein area was closed for a while to identify a group of troublemakers. In the same area, near Dracunaplein, a car was set on fire around midnight.
Fireworks in Brussels on New Year's Eve © BELGA PHOTO AND VIDEO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK